The day of reckoning has arrived – your initial court date. You’ve been anticipating this for weeks, maybe over a month. You have to go into the courthouse and be called before a judge to meet your fate.
Continuations and Plea Deals
Or do you? According to my lawyer, most cases get continued at least once, unless there are conditions favorable to the defendant. Sometimes the prosecutor requests the continuance, other times the defense attorney requests it.
In addition, most cases eventually get a plea deal, where the prosecutor, arresting officer and defense attorney negotiate and agree on a charge or penalty favorable to the defendant in order to avoid a trial. In this case, the defendant agrees to plea guilty to a lesser charge or the same charge with favorable penalties. The judge merely reviews the plea deal, asks the defendant if they understand it and then sign off on it.
I was told there was a 95% chance that my case would be continued, as my lawyer was still missing some documents he requested in discovery. However, once the lawyer spoke to the prosecutor and the arresting officer and reviewed the case, he decided to ask for a deal.
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His reasoning was that the case against me was solid, and that we had a prosecutor and judge who were known to strike and approve favorable deals based on various factors, such as lack of prior records and pre-enrollment in ASAP. He told me what the deal was, and asked for my approval. I took it. All things considered, I think the deal was fair based on the law, sentencing guidelines and the details of my case. I didn’t get the best deal, due to the case being solid, but I didn’t get the worst either.
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Obviously, all cases are unique. Just to put the rest of this story in context, my final charge was follows:
DWI – 1st Offense, no BAC.
Sentence: 90 days in jail, 85 suspended. $500 fine, plus $251 in court costs. 10 week ASAP course. Driver’s license suspended for one year, eligible for restriction pending enrollment in ASAP and interlock installed for six months.
For comparison, a typical sentence for a DWI – 1st offense with a BAC lower than 0.15 in Virginia is a completely suspended jail term, $250 fine plus costs, 10 week ASAP course, driver’s license suspension for one year, eligible for restriction pending enrollment in ASAP and interlock installed for six months.
Some notes about the sentence. In Virginia, one typically serves half of any misdemeanor sentence, unless the sentence is mandatory by law. I had to go to jail because my BAC was just above 0.15, which would come with a five-day mandatory sentence. Since my BAC was removed as part of the plea, the commonwealth’s attorney still wanted me to do some jail time, which was set at five days. Since this five days was not mandatory, it was automatically cut to 2.5 days, with the half day removed as time served the night of the arrest. So, two days in jail. Also note that this half-sentence is pending on good behavior in jail – act up, and they keep you there the rest of the time.
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I went before the judge where my lawyer asked for a sentencing delay of one week, which was granted. This was to allow me to get my affairs in order.
One week later, I was back in court. A few days prior, I emailed my lawyer my wish-list for my restricted license application. He typed it up, and one of his associates met me outside the courtroom the day of the sentencing to review and sign it. She had me in front of the judge quickly – the fifth case of the day. The judge asked me if I pled guilty, and asked me if I reviewed the sentencing. I affirmed that I had, he approved the sentence and the restricted license application, and told me to go with the deputy.
Up next: Jail.